Company accused of scam union recognition to defeat gig workers’ own collective efforts will appear at Labour’s conference – to talk about a ‘progressive gig economy’ at Progress alter-ego’s event
Keir Starmer’s Labour regime will host one of the mainstays of the exploitative ‘gig economy’ next month. ‘Progressive Britain’ – the renamed version of Blairite anti-left pressure group Progress – is hosting a fringe session titled ‘Delivering a progressive gig economy’ – and delivery company ‘Deliveroo’ is the event sponsor:
Deliveroo has been criticised for underpaying riders, for safety failings and for forcing riders to declare themselves as self-employed to drive down costs and the access of riders to employment rights such as sick pay, while making riders race against the clock.
When the IWGB gig workers’ union tried to unionise Deliveroo workers, the company took them to court to defeat the effort – and then made a widely-criticised agreement with the right-wing GMB union that was considered an attempt to undermine the workers’ own efforts to organise and act collectively.
The IWGB said the agreement was ‘a desperate attempt to dupe investors and the wider public into thinking the business takes workers’ concerns seriously. But the actions of its workers speak louder than backroom deals‘:
The IWGB has been the leading voice exposing the exploitative practices of Deliveroo’s business model that are designed to deprive workers of basic rights. As a result of this public pressure and in response to our campaigns, Deliveroo has been forced to introduce sickness insurance, parental pay, access to toilets for riders, reduced waiting times at restaurants, pay boosts and recruitment freezes.
Throughout this time Deliveroo has refused to negotiate with its workforce and has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds fighting the IWGB in court to prevent collective bargaining with its riders. Deliveroo has always claimed that collective bargaining would come at the cost of flexible working, but this partnership proves that this has always been a lie to scare workers away from unionising. Now as we appeal our collective bargaining case to the Supreme Court, Deliveroo has cynically made this backroom deal with the GMB, which has no record of organising couriers and presents no threat to their exploitative business practices, to protect itself in the event that it loses at the final stage. Deliveroo is undermining the efforts of couriers to pursue their rights through the courts, to organise for a voice at work, and to improve their working lives.
With Deliveroo’s first AGM next week, this announcement is nothing more than a hollow and cynical PR move. Deliveroo is the most protested food delivery platform in the world, even in the UAE where protests are illegal; our fight for workers rights significantly hindered Deliveroo’s IPO last year, and French Deliveroo bosses have been handed criminal convictions and fines over ‘willful infringement’ of employment law. This deal is a desperate attempt to dupe investors and the wider public into thinking the business takes workers’ concerns seriously. But the actions of its workers speak louder than backroom deals.
The company is seeking to undermine the UK legal system in preventing a successful statutory recognition agreement with the IWGB by securing a voluntary agreement with another union. This partnership benefits nobody except Deliveroo and the GMB leadership, and we call on the Government to review the Union Recognition legislation as it has been routinely undermined by union-busting companies who partner with yellow-bellied unions. If the Government believes in democratic workplaces and true representation of workers, then voluntary agreements such as this should be contestable.
This is not the first time a union has undermined the efforts of workers, claiming to represent their best interests but in fact signing away their basic rights. And it won’t be the last. Uber drivers in the IWGB report that, one year on from the Uber-GMB partnership, conditions are worse than ever. What hope is there for Deliveroo’s workforce who already earn as little as £2/hour? It is only through worker-led campaigning and organising that we can win better pay and conditions. We have continued to organise and win in these situations and we will continue to do so in light of this announcement.
Yet Deliveroo is welcome at ‘Labour’ events, to the extent it is even trumpeted as a sponsor – just as Keir Starmer has cosied up to the Murdoch S*n and continues to show contempt for the people of Liverpool where the conference will take place – and Liverpool shows its contempt back.
The Labour party is dead as a force for the good of ordinary people. As long as Starmer and anyone remotely aligned with him remain associated with it, there is no hope of a resurrection.
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